Unleash your inner root

Nothing to hide? Live in a glass house!

A colleague and I have been having a few long, and heated discussions about data mining and privacy invasion. Both of us are very firm believers in Linux and open source in the workplace, but in our personal lives have traditionally kept a windows PC around for gaming. The problem is, for me at least, over the years I have gone from “I use Linux at home, and only Linux”, to “Well, I’ll dual boot” to “well, I only really play games on my computer for the most part, so I’ll just run windows.”

Now, historically I have fallen into the camp of “Yes, Google is taking all my personal data, but I’m ok with the exchange of convenience I get in exchange” but as time goes on, I become less sure of my “Good Guy Google” faith, and a bit more afraid of what my information is doing out there in the big bad world. So I’m finally reaching a point where I think it all needs to stop.

The problem is, Google is dropping it’s “Good Guy Google” image as time goes on. First with the exclusion of “Don’t be evil” from alphabet’s founding principles. And now there is all that is coming to light in regards to google vs Oracle. I just don’t have faith that my data is only being used in the way’s it is being said it’s being used.

So this all raises a fundamental question: Is data-mining bad? Should we be worried? A lot of people, myself previously included, have lived on the edge of: “Well I have nothing to hide so it doesn’t bother me.” But the more I think about it…The more i realize…That isn’t the point. Just because you have nothing to hide, does not mean you should live in a glass house.

Let me put it this way, Do you trust google enough with your private information, to let them put a camera in your house and record you and your significant other having sex? If the answer to that question is yes: Then honestly good for you. And…Kind of eww…You trust google a little bit too much, but hey, if you are that free with yourself: Groovy. If the answer to that question is no: Why is your personal information any different?

The simple truth is this. Once something exists somewhere on the internet, it is there forever. As time goes on only MORE information is going to be available to the world, never less. Someone pointed out to me that there are children being born right now, whose parents are creating Facebook accounts for them as babies, and literally their ENTIRE LIFE will be documented on Facebook. Think about that. The Life of a human being from start to finish documented on Facebook. That is incredible, and also incredibly scary. Imagine how a life could be shaped if you knew every detail of its existence. I don’t want to spit some tin foil hats over here, but the internet and advertising can be powerful. Companies are just now beginning to understand how to leverage the data they are collecting. Yes, there will be benefits. There will be candy dangled before our eyes to give us glorious benefit. But our freedoms will disintegrate all the same.

The problem with this of course is that truly preserving your privacy…is freaking difficult. Moving away from windows is almost a no brainer, but the problem is: I honestly do mostly use my computer for gaming. Moving away from Gmail should be simple too, but it’s not… What email service do you change to? What company can be trusted more? Do you run your own server? You can, Hell, I am, but I wouldn’t trust my server to be my primary email manager. I spent the first 3 weeks i had it on a black list, and run now I might only be OFF the blacklist because all my friends have clicked “this was not spam” If i email anyone new, I might still be in the spam folder.

Getting rid of Facebook is easy enough, but then there is the matter of the phone. I don’t know that I could live without a smartphone anymore, I use it more as a computer than as a phone…But Android and iOS are both untrustworthy (And yes, I know apple fan boy’s will be like “But apple doesn’t sell your data, they didn’t give the key to the FBI for that one iPhone” yes, that might be true, But it’s closed source, and it can’t be trusted. Sorry them’s just the facts. Plus Apple offends me on other levels, so it’s a no go for me personally regardless).

So beginning now I have begun a step by step process to take back my privacy!

Effective immediately I have begun transitioning away from chrome to Firefox. I Have begun transitioning away from Google hangouts/standard SMS to Telegram.

On the horizon I have the following missions in mind:

  • Begin transition away from windows. In the immediate future I’ll be dual booting to Linux, and using windows ONLY for gaming. The plan is to not even perform basic google searches, or check emails while I am booted to windows. This will be hard at first, but I believe it can be done.
  • I will be looking for an alternative to google as a search engine. This may be the hardest thing to do. This will force me to recognize how much search optimization does for me, and whether or not I can live without it. This bit may not stick. But I feel like it might be one of the most important bits to the puzzle.
  • I’m looking into alternative email providers to Gmail. The option exists to use my personal email server as my primary email, but this seems risky. On the other hand, using any email provider could potentially be damning to privacy. How far do I take this? Where is the line?
  • Lastly, I’ll be thinking about amazon as a shopping platform. It is where I do a lot of my purchases these days, but shopping there feeds into the entire problem anyway…Again, where is the line? This is something that will have to be considered.

These are some basic steps I’ll be undertaking. I have no doubt that life will begin to get a bit complicated the more I think about this, but as time goes by it may also get easier. I’m not entirely sure how much of this will stick, but it’s important to think about these things. Consider the tradeoffs you make every day, and find the line for yourself!


Brandon.Graves • June 10, 2016

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